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Reid: Blocking of Hagel ‘one of the saddest spectacles I have witnessed’

US Senate Republicans successfully blocked Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be President Barack Obama’s next Pentagon chief on Thursday, forcing a 10-day delay in his confirmation vote. By a vote of 58-40 with one member voting present, Democrats failed to overcome a procedural roadblock put up by Republicans who had demanded…

U.S. general troubled by ‘fragile’ state of Iraq

Sectarian tensions and political discord in Iraq signal a “troubling” trend in the country since US troops withdrew a year ago, a top American general warned on Thursday. Iraq has remained stable but “fragile,” said General Lloyd Austin, who was the last US commander in Iraq before all his forces…

Singer Chubby Checker sues HP over penis-measuring app

A lawyer acting for Chubby Checker — the musical legend behind “The Twist” — has announced a lawsuit against tech-giant Hewlett-Packard for using the singer’s name for a penis-measuring app. In a statement this week, attorney Willie Gary said the suit named HP and its subsidiary Palm, for marketing the…

Panetta on Hagel delay: Let me ‘get the hell out of town’ already

With a feuding Senate holding up approval of his successor, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Thursday joked that he hoped he would be allowed “to get the hell out of town” and retire as planned. At an event honoring recently retired Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 74-year-old Panetta said…

Bloomberg: No night in jail for those caught with marijuana

Billionaire New York mayor Michael Bloomberg promised eye-catching changes Thursday for his last days in office, including reduced penalties for marijuana possession and a ban on Styrofoam cups. Cheerleaders danced and the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys hit “Empire State of Mind” blasted out as the three-term mayor came to the…

Satellite images show North Korea making progress on long-range missile

Already under fire for its latest nuclear test, North Korea has been making preparations at a launchpad that could pave the way for firing a long-range missile, a US think tank said Thursday. 38 North, a blog of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, analyzed satellite photos that it…

Anti-anxiety drug pollution makes fish fearless and antisocial

Anti-anxiety drugs find their way into wastewater where they make fish more fearless and antisocial, with potentially serious ecological consequences, researchers said Thursday. Scientists examining perch exposed to the sedative Oxazepam — which, like many medications, passes through the human body — found that it made them more likely to…

Judge awards $400 million in settlement against rig operator for Deepwater Horizon spill

A US judge approved Thursday a $400 million settlement in criminal penalties against the rig operator involved in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the worst environmental disaster in American history. The punishment was part of a plea bargain agreement reached last month by rig owner Transocean and the…

DOJ clears publishing merger between Penguin and Random House

British publisher Pearson on Thursday said the US government would allow it to merge its Penguin book division with rival Random House, overcoming a key competition hurdle. Pearson and Random’s parent, the German media giant Bertelsmann, announced in October plans to form a joint venture — Penguin Random House —…

Global demand for gold drops for the first time since 2009

Global demand for gold fell last year in its first tumble since 2009 as demand in leading market India slid, narrowing the gap with second-biggest buyer China, the World Gold Council said Thursday. Demand for the precious metal was 4,405.5 tonnes for the full year, down 3.85 percent from 4,582.3…

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